Our biological hearts are such complex organs; a series of veins, arteries, muscles, ventricles, pathways for blood to traverse. It is also thought of as ‘the seat of the soul,’ and the place from whence our emotions emerge. Love, passion, desire, tenderness, longing, compassion, and altruism are associated with it. I remember a few years ago hearing a story about a cardiac surgeon performing an open heart procedure and beholding a light in the midst of this organ; think the character E.T. with his radiant glow in his chest reminding us to ‘turn on our heart lights’. This doc’s view of medicine was forever changed as a result.
There are metaphors for the heart:
heart like a wheel (when you bend it, you can’t mend it)
heart like a stone
heart of gold
have a heart
In the past few years, I have taken a journey into my own heart, while not having exactly abandoned it, have placed it a not so close second to the hearts of those around me. I had learned from Masters (mom and dad) about caretaking others, sometimes at my own expense emotionally. I had erroneously believed that I needed to earn love; as much as I tell my clients whose own hearts are hurting, that it isn’t so. I had sometimes (and for many years), encased my heart in bubble wrap, so as to experience ‘pseudo safety’ from perceived rejection. Although it made a lovely popping sound at times, the plastic kept it from expanding fully. Not in a Grinch-y sort of way, but it longed to stretch its comfort zones.
Coming up on three years ago, I became ‘an adult orphan’, when my 86 year old mom joined her sweetheart of 53 years who was awaiting her, I’m sure, with open arms, after he had passed in 2008. At that moment, I sheltered my heart by staying busy (necessarily I told myself) with the tasks of being the executor of her affairs; the social worker who took care of the details of her care prior, and the minister who officiated her service afterward. Even after the dust settled, I was so accustomed to being in ‘go-mode’ that I lost track of even how to slow my pace. Grief showed itself sporadically; trickling tears being tucked back in so that I could function in the rest of my life. Career, creativity, relationships, household tasks, bills….you know ‘normal people stuff’.
A semi wake up call occurred earlier this year when my younger sister had two quite severe heart attacks. She was warned by her cardiologist that she needed to make major lifestyle changes. Challenging since at the time, her husband was ill, she held down a full time job, ran back and forth to the hospital, and had other stressors with which she was contending. Her husband died in July and there are new challenges in her life. I rationalized her health condition based on all of those factors. We also took seriously the fact that our mother died of CHF (Congestive Heart Failure).
As I write this, I am contemplating a health ‘opportunity’ as I am calling it. A few months ago, I heard about a study being conducted by a local university. It was testing an investigative medication for use with menopausal women with memory problems. As soon as the words were broadcast across the radio airwaves, I called out “Oooooh oooh, pick me!,” since my own mental hard drive was full to capacity and thoughts would often slip through my cerebral cracks. I called and was invited to come in for a series of screenings to see if I was an appropriate candidate. Nervous about what mental instability they might discover through cognitive tests that I had seen given for years as a psychiatric social worker, I bravely sat at a desk and muddled through them. Some I soared through like a champ, others I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t figure out. I cut myself some slack since spatial relations is not my forte’ anyway, having nothing to do with age. The next stage was a full physical that would include labs and an EKG. The day I came in for that, it seemed that the faeries were working their mischief. At first, the doc couldn’t easily draw blood as my vein was playing hide and seek. Then it was time for taking my blood pressure and the computerized machine wouldn’t work, so she went the old fashioned route. My BP was lower than my normal 120/80, so that was a postive. The EKG gave her trouble as well, as the leads weren’t securing themselves well and she needed to repeat the test. My resting heart rate was 60 BPM which I attributed to hours a week spent at Planet Fitness. I was told when I left that their cardiologist would take a look at the results since she detected something amiss.
Yesterday, I received a call from her, informing me of a condition called LAFB Left anterior fascicular block which has to do with a disruption of electrical impulses in the heart. She and the cardiologist didn’t feel it was life threatening, since I had thought I was asymptomatic, but the finding would prevent me from participating in the study. She advised me to meet with my PCP which I will do on Monday. In the mean time I have been perusing various medical sites and have been wading through doc-speak and sorting out just what it all means. Some say it’s nuthin’, others say I need to be aware of potential complications. As I go down the list of symptoms; I acknowledge that I have been dizzy and fluttery, but I chalked it up to my zipping around at light speed.
A slew of thoughts are swirling through my mind as I contemplate this information. It may be nothing at all, but a wake up call that I need to slooooww down. I was clearly led to this study to have a test that I would not have otherwise. I remind myself that other than family history I have fairly low risk factors. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs. I exercise daily. I eat a mostly veg diet. I have great social supports and strong spiritual faith and practice. I also got a cosmic-kick when I realized that the first three letters of the condition are LAF (laugh). I do that a lot.
Of course, as any self respecting cultural creative, metaphysician would, I pulled out my copy of You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay and looked up the reference for heart and was reminded that it represents ‘the center of love and security’ and that joy is what is needed to be reinforced in order for balance and healing to occur. I am reinforcing the affirmation “My heart beats to the rhythm of love.”
On Sunday, at a Volunteer Appreciation at Circle of Miracles, I won a door prize and this beautiful tiger’s eye heart came home with me. It is a reminder to stay in my heart .
http://youtu.be/SfrkKCuQAg8 Stay In My Heart by Charley Thweatt